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Ravens offensive lineman Kelechi Osemele likens back injury to being a 'wounded animal'

Thursday night's preseason opener has added significance for Osemele.

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

A year ago, Kelechi Osemele dealt with the back pain so excruciating that, in his words, he was unable to feel like his usual self.

Can you imagine waking up each day, only to feel a tingling sensation in your toes and insufferable pain that limited day-to-day activities? Well, that's what Osemele dealt with, which led him to end his season early to get surgery. Speaking to The Baltimore Sun's Jeff Zrebiec, Osemele described what it was like to go through that kind of pain.

"Honestly, I felt like I was in such a funk. It carried over off the field. I just wasn't the same person, and I didn't look forward to work every day because I was in pain. I was always in a bad mood and it kind of affected my relationships with people, with family. It was like being a wounded animal. I was in a bad place and having questions of 'Is this what I want to do, am I happy?'"

Osemele will have a chance to officially put that behind him on Thursday, when he gets a chance to start at left guard against the 49ers in the Ravens' preseason opener.

The injury, and going through the surgery and rehab, has given Osemele a renewed look on how to approach the game.

"I definitely play every rep like it's my last now because I know how [fickle] this game is. I won't take it for granted, playing and being a starter. It means more to me, knowing how it felt to sit out. It was just tough to watch. I would say definitely when I'm out there now, I have more enthusiasm and play with more passion."

The Ravens will be counting on Osemele to return to the kind of player he was as a rookie in 2012. And by all accounts, he's had a great training camp thus far. Good for Osemele to get past the hard times the back injury brought. For his sake, here's to better health in 2014.